Ghost Stores

Disclaimer: I own nothing from the original movies. I am not making any money, and I have nothing for you to take if you sue me (starving college student!) So...yeah, I think that's it!

The sky was leaden and gray when Alexander Carnahan O'Connell woke from his restless sleep and looked out the window. He'd been dreaming about those strange noises again… Almost at the same moment, a burst of heavy rain slammed into the glass panes of his window, turning his back yard into a momentary smudge of watercolor green. Ordinarily this would have dismayed him to no end. He wasn't allowed to play in the gardens when it rained, due to an entirely English—or so said his father—dislike of both wet and cold. But his mother prevailed in this, as she prevailed in most things, through the absolute adoration in which his father held her. At nearly ten years old, Alex was beginning to understand these things.

Ordinarily rain meant a trip with his mother to her career at the British Museum or an afternoon playing chess and eating oft-forbidden chocolate with his father. But for several months now, ever since the twins were born, Alex's mother had been uneasy about taking them out in the rain and Alex's father had been uneasy about her going anywhere without him. So the past months, wintry and cold, and been spent largely inside the family home; and while Alex acknowledged that fact that his ancestral home was quite large and interesting, he found this all exceedingly boring.

Today, however, Alex stripped off the bedclothes and stood at the window, peering on tiptoe out at the rain. He was actually happy that it was raining today, and he smiled at the showers outside. He had big plans.

The little boy cut a picture rather more disheveled than his mother liked as he sat on the floor, scrabbling for his shoes and socks. He changed quickly into his blue trews and white short-sleeved shirt. He took his blue jacket off its hook in the wardrobe, but purposely left his row of ties alone. After a moment of thought, he took his pith helmet down from the shelf and pulled it over his feathery blond hair. Even when they went adventuring, his father never wore a hat like this. But it was exactly like his uncle's pith helmet, and ever since receiving it for his last birthday he couldn't think of starting on any adventure without it.

Alex heard his mother calling as he exited his room, a small rucksack slung over one shoulder. He rattled down the curving, carpeted staircase from his second-floor bedroom to the ground floor dining room below.

Evelyn Carnahan O'Connell was just dishing up her son's breakfast from the covered dishes on the sideboard as he blew down the last steps, skipping the two bottom stairs and hurtling into the dark cherrywood dining room.

"Easy, Alex," Rick O'Connell said, ruffling his son's hair from under the pith helmet. "Going on safari today?"

"I say, my boy," Jonathan said from the other side of the table, "What's a five-letter word for corpse that ends in 'y'?" He scribbled something on his newspaper with a bit of pencil.

"It's mummy, Uncle John," the boy said. He endured the absent-minded kiss his mother placed on his head as she removed his helmet and set his porridge and his egg before him. "No hats at the table, Alex, you know that."

"Yes, mum," he said quickly before answering his father. Alex unfolded his napkin, placing it on his lap carefully as he spoke. For some reason, his mother did not like it so very much when he tried to tuck the napkin into his shirtfront. "Not safari, dad. I'm going ghost hunting!"

Jonathan choked on his coffee. "Ghosts?" he said, his eyes growing wide. "Evie…"

"Oh, calm down Jonathan!" she said, rolling her eyes. "He can go hunting ghosts or tigers or even mice for all of me, just as long as he doesn't go raising any mummies from the dead."

"Yes," Rick said, hiding behind Jonathan's newspaper. "That's his mother's forte."

"And apparently his father's forte is laughing in the face of any attempt at anthropological research." Evelyn raised both her eyebrows and her chin at her husband, hazel eyes glinting in her best English fashion.

"Oh, I'm all for research," Rick countered. "I just don't call it research when there's a bunch of walking, talking corpses stumbling after me. Besides, both times we've been chased by dead things I was the voice of reason. Just remember that."

Alex hid his face, trying not to laugh.

"Be careful of what you find, though, Alex. Some of those relics tucked back in the rooms are very breakable." Evelyn drifted over to where the twins' pram sat against the wall.

"I'm not interested in your knickknacks, mum," he protested. "I told you; I'm looking for ghosts."

"Why do you think there're ghosts in the house?" Rick asked his son.

"I've heard them," Alex said, his blue eyes glimmering with the light that so often lit Evelyn's. It was the spark of mystery…and adventure.

"Sweetheart, it's a big old house and bound to make noises. You know that." Evelyn lifted one of the twins out of the pram, patting his back gently as they traveled over to the table. Rick took him deftly, and the infant cooed happily at his father.

"It's not the house," Alex insisted fervently. Evelyn felt that voice more than she heard it, felt the emotion behind it as he strove to be taken seriously. "I've heard her laughing at me."

"Her?" Rick was startled into asking.

"Yes, and Uncle John has too!"

Rick raised an eyebrow at his brother-in-law. "And how would you know this?" he asked, still addressing his son. Jonathan shrugged and grinned uneasily, in his self-conscious way.

"She was keeping me awake last week," Alex said, playing with his breakfast and missing the exchange between the two men. "He came in to see why my light was still on."

"Alex, your Uncle John hears a lot of things that aren't really there, especially after Happy Hour."

Jonathan stuttered for a moment, but there really was nothing he could say to that and he had heard similar comments for so long that he had forgotten they were supposed to bother him.

"But I really heard her!" Alex insisted. "She pushes books and things off the table, and then she laughs."

"Alex!" Rick's voice was sharp, and Alex flinched. "You're too old to be blaming your own clumsiness on ghosts." He tendered his son with a stern look. "Go playing through the house if you wish, but do not go blaming things on imaginary scapegoats. You hear me?"

"Yes, sir."

The voice was hurt and slightly sullen. At those words Rick looked up, and it was his own somewhat-sleepy surprise in his eyes as he realized his words had caused the hurt in his little boy's voice. Alex didn't see this as, head down, he pushed away from the table and slipped from the room, his steps heavier than they had been when he entered.

Evelyn, holding the second twin, put a hand on Rick's shoulder. "He doesn't make up stories, Rick," she said.

"I know that."

"Then why did you have to say that? Wind can push things over just as easily as a little boy can." She let her eyes flick to her brother. "Or even Jonathan. He doesn't lie to us, and I don't see him starting now."

"Come on, Evelyn!" Rick said, standing up and shaking her hand from his shoulder. "Ghosts?"

Evelyn was not fazed. "We've seen walking corpses. What makes you so sure walking souls don't exist?"

"After ten years in this house I think we would have seen them by now."

"Do you really think so?" Evelyn asked. "It took three thousand to raise Imhotep."

Rick shuddered. "Don't even say that name, Evie. I don't want to hear it."

Jonathan chuckled at that, raising his coffee cup. "And I always thought you were the skeptic, Evie."

"Why don't you go find a girl, Jonathan?" Rick suggested.

"Mm…no. Actually I think I'm going to go find a boy."

There was a moment of silence after this statement, and Rick and Evelyn exchanged a Look before returning their eyes to Jonathan.

"Come off it!" the Englishman said. "I'm going to go talk to my nephew!"

"Just try not to encourage him too much in this, Jonathan," Rick said. "Walking, talking mummies in Egypt is one thing, but walking, talking ghosts in my house is another."

"And what if he does find one?" Evelyn asked, her mouth forming into the smirk that Rick both loved and hated. She smoothed down the curly hair of the twin in her arms. "What then?"

*****

A figure no more than a shadow approached Alex as he sat in his father's big chair before the fireplace. It paused, watching him as he scowled into his battered, first edition copy of Peter Pan. He looked very small in the oversized leather armchair, his feet stuck out in front of him, as his knees were nowhere near reaching the edge of the seat. He kicked his shoes together idly, a scowl painting his fair cheeks. Angrily he brushed a frustrated tear away from his eye with a hand creased from holding the large book steady for so long.

The shadow moved across the doorway, and a book on the edge of the hall table fell to the floor. Blue eyes big in a suddenly pale face, Alex twitched and looked all around him. Silence reigned for quite a long time. Alex strained his ears, but he could hear nothing save the rain beating against the leaded glass windows.

There was a sudden scrabbling sound, as if someone were scrambling for something on the floor, and what seemed to be a voice to Alex's young ears. But in the tall, heavily-furnished hallway sounds were often strange and mutated. Alex's breath hissed on the intake, the sound both unmistakable as fear and completely involuntary. His palms were sweating so much that the big book slipped from his grasp and crashed against his knees.

Alex jumped what felt like a mile out of his chair, an exclamation of both pain and fright escaping his throat. He felt his heart jump into his throat, and the back of his neck prickled in that awful way which meant he was being watched.

Scrambling out of the chair, unable to sit still for a moment longer, Alex made a swift, wide arc around the doorway. "My ghost," he whispered. He crept along the wall, inching toward the door. Another scuffling sound made him flinch, but he swallowed the constriction in his throat and crept forward.

Alex didn't know whether he should be afraid or thrilled as he inched toward the door. He was finally going to see his ghost! Ghosts didn't scare him nearly as much as mummies. But then, he figured, he hadn't been kidnapped and hauled across the whole of Egypt by any ghosts. To finally meet the spirit of someone who had lived long before! Alex didn't quite know what was the first question he wanted to ask this visitor from the past. Slowly, his small hands shaking as they clutched the doorway, he slid around the corner…

And found himself face to face with his perceived ghost—his Uncle Jonathan!

They both screamed in unison, and vaulted back. Jonathan, unfortunately, slipped on the well-waxed floor of the hallway and fell backwards, making a hollow thud! as he landed on the sleek flooring.

"Uncle John?" Alex asked, his eyebrows rising in childish incredulity.

"Alex! You nearly scared the life out of me, child," the man said, climbing rather shakily to his feet.

"I thought you were my ghost."

"Under the circumstances I may well turn into one," replied the poor man, whose heart was just beginning to slow down. He took a deep breath and then took Alex by the shoulder, leading him back into the library. He watched as his nephew crawled back into Rick's chair before he sat down himself.

"Look, old chum," he said, "I don't want you to feel badly about what your father said to you back there."

"I don't," Alex said, but the voice was sullen, and he refused to meet his uncle's eyes.

"Come off it," Jonathan said. "I know you do, and you've every right to be upset. But your father just wants to protect you—"

This really was too much for Alex, and he wasted no time in saying so. "He doesn't want to protect me!" he informed his uncle. "There's nothing to protect me from. He just doesn't want me to be a kid anymore. He wants me to be all grown up, like he is." Alex let out a puff of angry air. "Now that he has the twins, he doesn't need me to be a kid anymore. Now I'm just supposed to grow up." He cast a longing glance at the open page of his book, where an engraving of Peter Pan, dressed in rags, hands on hips, laughed defiantly at the world of adults which he scorned.

"Alex, Alex," Jonathan said, shaking his head. "Your father never had much of a childhood, and it's really time you knew that. He dearly wants you to be a boy and do boyish things." Here he put a hand on his nephew's shoulder. "But he really doesn't want you doing anything that's dangerous. Your mother learned the hard way that searching for mummies isn't always a good thing. Our father learned the same. But your father wants to save you from what appears to be the Carnahan family curse."

"Mummies?"

Jonathan laughed, and ruffled the boy's hair. "More like anything that walks and talks and isn't supposed to."

"But my ghost is real!" Alex insisted. "Searching for her doesn't make her any more real, and ignoring her doesn't make her go away."

"Convince your father of that," Jonathan said, "and you'll have done something that your mother couldn't even do."

Alex snorted his opinion of that. "There's nothing that mum can't do!"

"Atta boy," Uncle John said. "Now. No hard feelings toward your dad?"

Alex sniffed. "I guess not."

"For the moment, I suppose that will have to do." Jonathan rose. "You come tell me if you find anything on this hunt of yours, what?"

At that, Alex beamed his usual cheerful smile and the twinkle returned to his bright eyes. "You bet, Uncle John!" And he went back to his book, feeling happier than he had since breakfast.